The behind-the-scenes quest for a competitive advantage over rivals is the focus for the latest report in our series on the unreal journey to the top of the game
The United States came to a standstill as Jurgen Klinsmann’s side defied the odds and reached the latter stages of the World Cup in Brazil.
It was a glorious climax to a journey that had been at least four years in the making and was shared by millions in America and across the globe.
But what few people witnessed was the hours of training that went into helping the USA – and the other outstanding sides from World Cup 2014 – reach their optimum level.
Indeed, top coaches agree that, while their methods may differ, it is these efforts behind the scenes that matter more than anything else in the pursuit of excellence.
Over the last decade, training philosophies have evolved and advances in sports science have provided more opportunities to push the boundaries.
Data provided by performance monitoring companies such as Opta has given coaches added insight into the strengths and weaknesses of their players.
Sports drink giant Gatorade has also been able to assist teams with pioneering hydration techniques that determine how much fluid is lost and exactly what types of refuelling each player needs to replace the carbohydrates and electrolytes they use during exercise.
“We have changed a lot in training [over the years],” former Brazil fitness coach and first-team boss Carlos Alberto Parreira told Goal.
“Physical fitness is completely different now, training with the ball is completely different, especially in Brazil.
“I always had a different system to some others because I travelled. After I’d left Ghana I went to study in Germany for four months, then I went to England. I followed Matt Busby’s training, I also followed Chelsea.
“So my vision was very open in terms of the importance of preparation in football, and when I came back to Brazil I was a very different professional with a wider vision of how the game was played and how it was prepared.”
During the last 20 years, the game across the world has taken giant strides in terms of training routines.
“Our workdays – the days that we would work hard – changed, again that used to be quite standard,” said former Arsenal defender Martin Keown at a Gatorade event in London.
“If you had a free week, you would train Tuesday, have the Wednesday off and then come in and train quite hard on the Thursday.
“But later on it was worked out that two days before a big match – which would have been the Thursday when we came back fresh – that wasn’t ideal for us to be training too hard, because often in high-level sport it is not the day after you’ve played but the following day that you suddenly feel pain and that’s the same before the match.
“So that changed completely: the days that we worked, the massage, the recovery, the hydration, the ice baths... everything changed to give yourself the optimum performance levels you needed to be at on a Saturday.”